Secrets are hard to keep — but these 3 tech founders still chose stealth mode

by Justine Hofherr
June 20, 2017

It’s hard to keep secrets, yet many startups opt to launch their ventures in stealth mode, keeping tight-lipped around the media and shunning PR opportunities.

While there are some obvious cons to launching a startup this way, the mystery surrounding stealthy startups often generates even more buzz before a company debuts. To learn about the thought process behind choosing stealth, we asked three Boston tech founders what made them pick it — and what lessons they’ve learned post-launch.


Owl Labs’ video conferencing product, Owl, is "the first plug-and-play smart video camera.” The camera  automatically focuses on the speakers in order to provide an immersive experience.

Responses via CEO Max Makeev

Why did you choose to launch your company in stealth mode?

We believe in getting the product right for the customer prior to coming out of stealth. We didn't want to announce the company until we were sure the product was solid, beta users were happy and we had a clear line of sight to hitting our manufacturing plan.

What were a few of the pros and cons of stealth?

The pros of staying in stealth is that it gave us the time to understand the customer and their needs, as well as to test our business processes in advance of selling the product. In hardware, it can take one to two years to build a new product, and staying in stealth helps you avoid telling the competition what you’re up to before you're ready.

The biggest con was that it was much harder to hire in stealth mode, because the best candidates might not even know you exist. Also, it means you have to begin all your marketing at time of launch versus building up your brand over time.

What do you wish you had known before launching in stealth?

I wish we had known how to reach end users more efficiently while in stealth. We had a lot of companies sign up after the company announcement, but finding customers pre-announcement was a challenge. Luckily, we hired a great VP of Growth, Karen Rubin, who helped us find companies for our beta program while we were in stealth mode.

Any other lessons that you've learned since emerging from stealth mode?

We learned that companies are very interested in a solution that helps their remote teams connect and collaborate better, and they're lining up to try our product launching soon! This is great validation for our initial decision to stay in stealth mode to ensure we got the product right for our future customers.



Wasabi provides “hot storage,” which means it’s fast to write, low-cost and reliable cloud storage.

Responses via CEO David Friend

Why did you choose to launch your company in stealth mode?

Our product is so easy to understand. We say it's "just like Amazon S3 but 1/5th the price and 6x the speed." We didn’t want to give any potential competitors even one extra day to think about how we’re doing it. We used the name, “BlueArchive,” during stealth mode to create the impression that we were doing cold storage, like tape or Glacier. I think everyone was shocked to find out that, in fact, we have unveiled both the least expensive cloud storage on the market and the fastest. Wasabi is hot storage, which is why we chose that name.  

What were a few of the pros and cons of stealth?

The pros are primarily that you are not tipping your hand to potential competitors any earlier than necessary. Furthermore, when you do finally announce yourself, you benefit from the “surprise” factor and what you’re doing will be “new news” and not old news. The cons are that you can’t really talk too openly to potential customers, so when you launch, you’ll be building your pipeline from scratch. In our case, since the product is so easy to understand, we didn’t think that was much of a price to pay.  

What do you wish you had known before launching in stealth?

This is my seventh startup, and the sixth that I have co-founded with Jeff Flowers over the past 30 years. We’ve done this time and time again, so we understand the stealth game pretty well at this point. I can’t say that there were any significant surprises. Just about everything has worked out the way we had envisioned.  

Any other lessons that you've learned?

Some of our companies have pioneered products that required people to change the way they do things. These kinds of products require a lot of user testing in order to understand exactly how users will interact with your product or even if they will understand what it’s for.

At the other end of the spectrum are products like ours, whose need in the market and functionality is already well understood. Amazon did all the pioneering work 10 years ago so we don’t need to explain to the market why they should buy cloud storage. Most of our testing is just to make sure the platform works and can scale.

If your company is the former kind, it’s a lot harder to stay in stealth mode because you need to be interacting with potential users long before launch. With Wasabi, it was easy to stay in stealth mode because we didn’t really need a lot of user feedback during development. Our proposition is like a first class plane ticket to Paris for $100.  How much user testing do you need?  



128 Technology describes itself as an advanced secure networking company on a mission “to fix the Internet.” The startup’s network platform provides network-based security, control and insight across data centers, wide-area networks and edge locations for enterprises, service providers and cloud companies.

Responses via CEO Andy Ory

Why did you choose to launch your company in stealth mode?

The three prime groups that companies target are customers, investors and employees. If you don’t have a problem attracting those three and you are in the early stage of your company, you don’t necessarily need to publicly launch. Usually companies don’t have their cup overflowing with all three of these.

People don’t typically want to work for a company that doesn’t have a website and a compelling message, and champions within customer organizations are unable to point others to your website to see a compelling value proposition. We decided the right time to emerge from stealth mode was when we had a product and really had something to say.

What were a few of the pros and cons of stealth?

On the pros side, we were really able to focus on our immediate core objectives: developing our product and articulating our message to a focused potential customer community. On the cons side, I believe that if you want to change the world, you can’t do it without screaming it from every rooftop — and that doesn’t sound like stealth mode to me. There’s a revolution in networking and we want to tell anyone and everyone why what we’re doing matters and will change the networking industry.

What do you wish you had known before launching in stealth?

If you truly want to change the world, you need to be present in every discussion that pertains to your market and technology space. The sooner you can participate the better. However, you learn so much from your first few customer engagements that holding back on the amplification of your message until you’ve been able to reap the knowledge gained through your initial engagements is invaluable.

Any other lessons that you’ve learned since emerging from stealth mode?

The more secure an entrepreneur is with themselves, the more they realize the significant cost of being quiet for too long. It’s not unusual for entrepreneurs to be nervous about discussing their idea — but it’s not ideas that change the world, it’s people.


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